For many dogs and their owners, summer is the best time of year for excursions into nature. But at this time of year especially, danger lurks outdoors in the shape of ticks. These arachnids can transmit many diseases. Special collars can protect dogs.
Thomas Matzik and Rübe have experienced things that could fill the screenplay for an action film, a drama, or a whodunit – any number of genres. "Oh yeah, we could tell some stories. One time there was this horde of wild boar..." Almost all conversations with Thomas Matzik eventually turn to his adventures with Rübe.
Rübe is a wire-haired dachshund whose full name is Rübezahl after the German fairytale character. "Because of his little gray beard," explains Matzik. "The first time we saw him at the dog breeder's, he immediately tottered toward us – and the decision was made." That was nine years ago. Since then, he and Rübe have been inseparable. Every day, the two of them hike throughout the Bergisches Land region near Cologne, stroll through the woods or patrol Matzik's territory.
The 58-year-old medical technician is a hunter, and his wire-haired dachshund is his loyal companion. Together they save fawns from combine harvesters and drive wild boar out of corn fields. Together they crouch under a blanket on the raised hide night after night, Rübe's head on Matzik's leg. "He loves these excursions," says Matzik. "While I'm getting ready to go, he's already waiting outside in the driveway and won't let anything stop him. Not a chance."
However, it is during these lengthy excursions that the greatest danger to both of them awaits outdoors, in the form of an arachnid no larger than a pinhead: the tick. These parasites particularly enjoy lurking in tall grass or in the bushes and trees on the wayside. Well camouflaged, they wait there for a suitable host.
Matzik always wears long-sleeved shirts and tucks his pant legs into his socks for protection. Yet Rübe is entirely at the mercy of the blood-sucking arachnids. Ticks are particularly active in the spring and summer: over the course of their lives, these parasites shed their skin several times and require a blood meal beforehand each time. To get this blood, they attack animals and people.
More than 30%
of ticks are infected with borreliosis bacteria in some areas.
Matzik and his dog have had some extremely unpleasant experiences with these parasites. "After almost every walk, I would find these tiny beasts in Rübe's coat," Matzik explains. "Sometimes I didn't notice them until he couldn't stop scratching in that particular place – I always felt so sorry for him." But the arachnids aren't just annoying: they also transmit numerous diseases that can be dangerous for dogs.
Ticks – Tiny Yet Dangerous
Tick bites can transmit numerous dangerous diseases in dogs. Borreliosis is particularly widespread. Dogs suffering from this disease do not show any specific signs of being ill at first, but about two to five months after being bitten, they are often affected by bouts of fever, a lack of appetite, symptoms of paralysis or swollen lymph nodes. In the late stage, the disease damages the kidneys and heart.
Babesiosis is also transmitted by ticks. Dogs with this dangerous disease are infected by single-cell organisms that destroy their red blood cells. This results in anemia that can be deadly within just a few days. Dogs can also become infected with anaplasmosis after a tick bite. The incubation period lasts about one to two weeks before a high fever and fatigue usually set in. Frequently this is accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding, while some animals develop nerve disorders. In the Mediterranean region, ticks can also transmit ehrlichiosis. This disease reduces the number of blood platelets and the dog then develops a tendency to bleed. Left untreated, this disease usually becomes chronic and can lead to the dog's death.
Tick bites can not only have bad consequences for animals, they can also be dangerous for people: tick-borne borreliosis is widespread worldwide. This disease starts with harmless flu-like symptoms, yet as time goes on, it can lead to serious health problems such as meningitis and inflammation of the heart muscle. Left untreated, borreliosis can be fatal.
With a tick repellent, the insect never gets a chance to bite in the first place.
A friend subsequently recommended the Seresto collar from Bayer, which continuously dispenses an ectoparasiticide onto the dog's coat. The active ingredient irritates the nerve endings on the tick's feet. As a result, as soon as a tick comes into contact with the treated fur, it retracts its legs and drops off the animal. "That means a tick bite never occurs in the first place, and thus an infection cannot take place," explains Bayer parasitologist Professor Norbert Mencke. "This type of tick control product is called a repellent." And the repellent even has a dual effect: "A short time after it comes into contact with the dog's fur, the tick dies and cannot infect any other host either."
The new collar worked on Matzik's dog: the ticks disappeared. "We were very relieved," he says. "It really took a load off our minds." Rübe has been wearing the collar for five years now. "I've never discovered a tick on him since then." Thanks to the collar, he can now relax again while Rübe bounces through the tall grass. On the way to his next adventure.